In my first episode of the Songs of My Life, I talked about Hymn by Ultravox, which became a Song of My Life some ten years later than it has been published. For Don’t Stop Believin’, this time-span is even larger – the song really deeply touched me the first time in the early 2010’s – about thirty years after Journey originally published this classic masterpiece – which, I feel, is still very popular especially in the United States.
Don’t Stop Believin’: The Story of The Song
The roots of Journey date back to 1973, when the band has been founded in San Francisco. Two of the founding members, Neal Schon (guitar, backing vocals) and Ross Valory (bass, backing vocals) are still members of the band – Valory, however, left the band for a brief period in the 1980’s, before the band broke up. There was a short reunion in 1991, and since 1995, the band is touring again.
At the time of writing and releasing Don’t Stop Believin’ on the album Escape and as a single, Schon and Valory were joined by legendary Steve Perry (vocals), Steve Smith (drums / percussion) and Jonathan Cain (keyboard, background vocals). Cain was the main input to writing this song – his father used to tell him Don’t stop believing or you’re done, dude, when he struggled with the musician’s life living on Los Angeles Sunset Boulevard during this time. The reference to South Detroit is just random due to melodic reasons. In fact, there is no place like South Detroit – geographically, this would refer to Windsor, Ontario, Canada, which is located opposite of Detroit River.
At the time of release, it has not been an overwhelming chart success. Don’t Stop Believin’ went Top 10 in Canada and in the US Mainstream Rock. However, several incidences pushed the song back to the charts again and again. One of the reasons was the Rock of Ages musical, which started on Broadway in 2009 (which is “my” Don’t Stop Believin’ story, see below), but also an X-Factor performance and the version of the Glee musical TV show cast boosted the sales significantly after the original release. For example, the song went up to the sixth spot in the UK in 2010 and made to the Top 25 in the annual charts. In Sweden, the song made it to the Top 100 in 2015, 2017 and 2018. It sold one million physical copies in the US, but had as many sale as a ringtone and seven million digital sales / downloads. Thus, it is the most downloaded song in the US, which has not been recorded in the 21st century.
And then there was Glee…
The Glee cast version released in 2010 went platinum in the US, the UK and Australia. In addition, it hit the Top 10 in Ireland, Japan (Contemporary Airplay), Portugal (digital) and Scotland. The song was the the closing song of the very first episode of the very successful TV show. It’s a very different, but also a really lovely version of the song.
Don’t Stop Believin’: My Story of The Song
As said in the introduction, my story of Don’t Stop Believin’ starts in 2011 or early 2012 (I cannot fully reconcile that any more): I had a trip to London on my own and did what I just loved to do: go to one of these ticket resellers and look for some cheap seats for the evening. I decided to go for a ticket of Rock of Ages – the first time I ever saw that show. You will find several postings about it on Flyctory.com: first of all, a posting about the story and the previous UK Tour, but also pictures from an amateur performance near Cologne and visiting the the Hollywood Bourbon Room – the place where the musical’s story is mainly takes place (including a performance, of course).
32 Shows… and many more to come
When I entered Shaftesbury Theatre in London, I had seen the Queen musical We will rock you about ten or eleven times already (now I am at 13) and would have never imagined I could ever sit down for a show that often again. To make the story short: at the time of writing, I saw Rock of Ages 32 times in four countries – and if the pandemic is allowing shows from May again, there will be some 15 more performances in 2021. The story of the musical plays in the same setting as Jonathan Cain was originally, when his father told him not to stop believing: the early 1980’s era of rock. The musical is a love story jukebox musical about fighting for rock music – finally, the Bourbon Room is saved – and after the main characters Drew and Cherrie had to work as boy band singer and striptease dancer in the meantime, also find back love.
The song is the closing song after a set of big 1970’s to 1990’s hits like The Final Countdown (Europe), I Wanna Rock (Twisted Sister) or I Want to Know What Love Is (Foreigner). It is introducing with the magical words, told by Lonnie
So, that’s how our story wraps up! As for Drew and Sherrie, well, it looks like they found love in place of fame! Living in Glendale now, I believe. They are the perfect illustration, that on the strip, sometimes the dreams you come in with, may not be the dreams you’re leaving with! But hey, they still rock!
I loved the music from the very beginning. One reason was the dirty humor and the quite high level of interaction with the audience, which was especially part of the UK performances. Naturally, there are not too many available live recordings of musicals – but the video above is the original cast (at a musical festival, not an original stage recording) of the first UK performances. The main characters are Oliver Tompsett, Amy Pemberton, Simon Lipkin and Shayne Ward – but if you have a close look, you also see Twinnie Lee Moore on stage, who is nowadays a Featured Artist of Flyctory.com, doing country music. Rock of Ages was the first time I saw her live on stage – not too surprising that I still love that lady today 🙂
My love for the musical got even more intense with the 10th Anniversary UK tour in 2018 and 2019. Due to the frequent number of shows I saw, I got in quite close and friendship contact to some of the tour cast members, who I am still in contact with and also partially met in/after other shows after the tour closed in Leeds on 3rd August 2019.
This song connected me to wonderful people
Thus, whenever I listen to Don’t stop believin’, I think of the wonderful Luke Walsh (Drew), Andrew Carthy (Hertz), Joshua Dever, Adam Strong (Major) and especially Kevin Clifton (Stacee Jaxx), Lucas Rush (Lonnie) and the very dear Rhiannon Chesterman (Regina). There are also a lot of RoAdies / musical fans I met by the show over time again and again, including the legendary Adrian, who is having quite a triple-digit number of visits of the show – thankful to be connected to these lovely people by that musical and that song – and hope to see some of them back again on 6th May 2021, when the musical is scheduled to be played again at Kings Theatre, Portsmouth.
Don’t Stop Believin’: Spotify / Lyrics
Below is a Spotify link to the (Original Broadway) musical version of Don’t stop Believin’. The lyrics of the Journey original can be found for example here.
Title picture: Rock of Ages UK Tour 2019 promotion material